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Working under the sun…with Christ

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Jul 02, 2024

I ran out of time for the explanation of great mysteries today, and indeed, who can fully explain a mystery? But at least I can proclaim one, inspired by reading my allotted small section of the Bible last night, where I found this, in the Book of Ecclesiastes:

When I applied my mind to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night one’s eyes see sleep; then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out; even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out. [8:16-17]

For the “Preacher” who is the voice of this inspired book, the key lesson is that everything in human affairs is vanity. This is so because we see neither the origins nor the ends of anything; we can do nothing to resolve this problem; and so we must be content with the simple goods of life and not worry ourselves with things far too great for mortal man. The book is attributed to King Solomon (10th century BC) but the language tends to place its composition no earlier than the fifth century BC, and possibly later.

It is surprising, of course, that the Book does not refer to what we can know from Divine Revelation up to that point; it seems more to represent the natural man’s efforts to find meaning, and the futility of such natural efforts to understand the vast depths of reality, to know either our past or our future. And indeed, the books of the Old Testament reveal very little about man’s ultimate destiny. There are certainly some passages from before the time of this book which suggest that the righteous will be redeemed by God and dwell in His courts forever, but it is hardly inconsistent with the Old Testament to recognize man’s inability to grasp his past, to understand his present, to know his future, or actually to see any ultimate end beyond the grave.

As Christians, we can find it useful to imagine ourselves in the position of a Jew at any time before Christ. The Psalmist was able to praise God because “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139). And yet how little the Psalmist really knew and clearly understood!

Through our Divine Savior, we know so much more today, yet we find this knowledge constantly squandered. Our blessings exceed those of the Preacher by an infinite order of magnitude. “I have called you friends,” said Jesus Christ, “for all that I heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:15). We can only gasp at the Divine condescension, and offer a life of thanks and praise in return.

The apostle James put it this way:

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. [1:2-4]

And St. Paul explained the ultimate benefit of this more fully:

For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God. [Gal 2:19-21]

According to John the Evangelist, Christ told us all these things so that, in Him, we might have peace (Jn 16:33). Therefore, with St. Paul, we need only to be able to say, “I do not nullify the grace of God.”

It is precisely in conformity to that grace that we are a new creation, and it is precisely this miracle, in the midst of our ignorance, that we have been given to know beyond the slightest doubt: “Behold,” says Jesus Christ*, “I make all things new.”


* Rev 21:5

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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